New Aviation Course Lands at Southeastern

The start of the school year ushered in a host of new elective courses that enrich the curriculum for Southeastern students. One of these courses gives students the opportunity to learn about aircraft, spaceflight, flying drones, and careers in aviation. The course, officially called Principles of Aviation, is taught by Mr. Kelley, a private pilot and Air Force veteran.

The aviation elective is being offered in partnership with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) High School Aviation STEM Curriculum project. Southeastern was one of only 30 schools nationwide, and the only one in the Northeast, selected by AOPA to field test the new curriculum. Mr. Kelley attended a three-day workshop in Maryland last June to review the curriculum and try out some of the interesting projects, such as building a wind tunnel. He was impressed by the quality of the materials and number of hands-on activities.

“I never imagined you could build a functioning wind tunnel with cardboard and a box fan,” said Mr. Kelley. “This project brings us back to the days of the Wright Brothers and allows students to experiment with simple wing designs just as the early pioneers of aviation did in their workshops.”

This year students will learn how aviation is organized in the United States from airports to airspace. They will explore career opportunities that relate to many of Southeastern’s vocational programs and hear from guest speakers from various aviation professions. Students will gain hands-on experience flying drones and learn the skills necessary to operate these cutting edge aerial vehicles to commercial standards.

Cape Air’s Senior Vice President of Planning, Andrew Bonney, recently visited the class to discuss careers in aviation. Bonney, who used to work for United Airlines as a route planner, spoke about the variety of aviation career paths available right here in Massachusetts. Cape Air, which is based in Hyannis, employs over 300 people in jobs ranging from scheduling, to maintenance, to graphic arts.

“Southeastern is well-positioned to place students on career paths in aviation. Many of our vocational studies align with aviation-related skills and professions,” noted Mr. Kelley. “For example, a student with electronics training could repair avionics, while a student from Legal and Protective might fly drones for first responders.” Students could continue their education through the aviation program at Bridgewater State University or the Cape Cod Community College Aviation Maintenance program at Plymouth Airport.

Mr. Kelley’s passion for aviation started young. He worked at Plymouth Airport from age 13 until he graduated from high school and started flying lessons at age 15. He soloed for the first time at age 16 and was a licensed private pilot by 17. After a long break from flying after his military service, he started flying again for enjoyment three years ago and has now logged over 325 hours flight time. “My involvement in aviation–even as a hobby–reminds me that learning is a lifelong process. My latest challenge has been to learn to fly antique planes built to train World War II pilots. I finish each flight tired and exhilarated at the same time,” said Mr. Kelley.  “I hope to share this passion for aviation with my students this year.”

By:  Mr. Kelley